Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
In our connected and complicated world, it can seem as if news of disease, natural disasters, violence and suffering bombards us from every direction. We’re more connected to a planet’s worth of chaos than we ever have been before. Combine that with dealing with the trauma of breast cancer as a young adult, and the effect can be overwhelming. If you’ve been feeling overcome by our 24/7 news cycle, know that news-related stress is a serious issue and you’re not alone.
Hearing or Watching the News Can Cause Its Own Form of Trauma
Too much trauma-related news can have a negative impact on individuals. This could range from coverage of an event such as a political debate, to natural disasters, to civil unrest. Events of 2020 have caused us to bear witness to incredibly scary events. There is even talk of a worldwide trauma due to COVID-19.
“Self-regulation about media intake is healthy and good. You have permission to take a break!”
It’s even possible to develop a sense of hypervigilance due to the vicarious stress symptoms of exposure to trauma on the news. The Anxiety and Stress Management Institute suggests that individuals pay attention to when the news is becoming too much.
You may be thinking, “That sounds great…But how?” We get it; it can be hard to avoid the news. Here are three tips for coping when the news becomes upsetting.
Three Quick Tips for Managing News-Related Stress
Put down the remote!
Seriously. Turn off, tune out and unplug. Limit the amount of media coverage you observe. Do something else, something that is nourishing and nurturing to your psyche, like reading a good book.
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Talk it out
Surround yourself with those with whom you feel safe and comfortable. Talk with other young survivors who may mutually benefit from being able to talk about it. Setting boundaries and receiving support are important in many aspects of our lives.
Remember the importance of restful sleep
The National Sleep Institute (NSI) suggests that when we find ourselves ruminating on disturbing thoughts, our bodies tense and our hearts race. Relaxation exercises and creating healthy bedtime routines can assist in taking ourselves down a notch.
The NSI further reports that 90% of Americans report using a handheld device in the hour before bedtime. The blue light from these devices interrupts our body’s normal sleep process, so choosing to stop looking at our phones or tablets two hours before deciding to sleep is recommended. This would also organically mean two less hours of media coverage!
Take a Step Back
Allow for time needed to recover and re-stabilize in between events. Trauma care involves a need for a sense of safety and calm, of being able to solve problems for oneself or as part of a group (such as family or any school, religious or community group that the person can identify with), connectedness to social support, and hope.
In a time that feels chaotic, let these principles serve as a guide. How can you cultivate these in your life? Where and with whom do you feel safe? What brings your calm? As you begin to tune in with yourself, you will become more aware of when you need to take a break. Be good to yourself and each other.
Jean joined YSC in 2011 with a background in clinical oncology social work. She is a licensed clinical social worker, a certified oncology social worker and a certified journal therapist. Her focus includes the crafting, piloting and implementing of supportive and educational programming for young breast cancer survivors, co-survivors and healthcare providers. As a certified journal therapist, Jean crafted an original program addressing re-establishing intimacy after breast cancer as well as continuing education journal writing programs for mental health and nursing professionals regarding compassion fatigue and self-care. She holds a master of social work from the University of Georgia and a bachelor of arts from the University of South Carolina.